Posted in dance, modern dance meets ballet

PTDC dances on but only through April 1st

Promethan Fire. Photo by Lois Greenfield

Missing spring with the Paul Taylor Dance Company is a little like not getting to see the blossoms in Central Park. There is always much to celebrate as PTDC brings spring to New York City. This year, it was the 50th anniversary of the seminal Taylor dance-piece “Aureole.”

As you probably know, the Company moved to the David H. Koch Theatre at Lincoln Center and will be there through April 1. Here are some highlights from the NYC season:
“Syzygy” , defined in the program notes as “the configuration of three or more celestial bodies in a gravitational system,” has a lot of verve. The party on stage frugs like it’s 1987 as Michelle Fleet demurely balances on one leg, pointing the other as she twirls. Ms. Fleet then proves she can really cut loose as the syncopated music composed by Donald York for the dance piece. PTDC’s “celestial bodies” glide and jump with ease, push and pull at each other, rise and fall and rise again.

“Company B” is a personal favorite, and at its absolute best when performed by any of the PTDC groups.

Rum and Coca-Cola from “Company B” performed by Taylor 2. Photo by Tom Caravaglia

Set during WWII, “Company B” to songs sung by The Andrews Sisters, gives us snippets from the homefront, with an occasional backdrop frieze depicting the warzone. It remains a light and airy paen to a bygone Americana despite these reminders that boys die in wars. James Samson’s goofy Johnny is particularly endearing in “Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh!” and Eran Bugge is wonderfully seductive in “Rum and Coca-Cola.”

“Gossamer Gallants” enjoyed a New York City premiere (as did “The Uncommitted,” — see review on this site at “A Gala To Launch PTDC’s Spring”) or rather, New York City enjoyed it. “Gossamer Gallants” is an extremely funny look at the battle of the sexes. The “gallants” in question, wonderfully costumed by Santo Loquasto, are insects, whose “gossamer” wings flutter as the girl insects, clad in light green one-piece capris, came by. Ultimately, they are menaced and oppressed by the females they started out chasing. The females wiggle invitingly from their bottoms to their antenae, until the boys, and the audience, are enthralled.

The tango-esque “Piazzolla Caldera” is another treat from the canon. The dancers’ posture framed for the rigorous demands of the tango, their steps forceful and assured, yet the choreography only emulates the Spanish dance but in a totally soul-satisfying way.

For more information about the Spring Season of PTDC, visit the David H. Koch events page or go to www.ptdc.org/nyc.

Posted in classic, drama, elements of comedy

"A Moon…" Waxes Poetic

Eugene O”Neill mixes laughter with despair, anger with love, compassion with bravado. He was well-established as one of Amnerica’s foremost playwrights long before “A Moon For The Misbegotten” flopped on Broadway in 1957.
In fact,“A Moon For The Misbegotten,” in a Pearl Theatre Company presentation at City Center Stage II through April 15th, was an underappreciated masterpiece until its 1973 revival.

As The Pearl’s Artistic Director, JR Sullivan puts it, “A Moon For The Misbegotten” is “the celebrated Eugene O’Neill’s last great play.”

The cast of The Pearl’s production, particularly Kim Martin-Cotten as Josie Hogan, Dan Daily as Phil Hogan, and Andrew May as James Tyrone, under JR Sullivan’s direction brings out all the poetry in O’Neill’s beautiful script. It is as fine a revival as any of recent years.

Kim Martin-Cotton as Josie Hogan and Andrew May as James Tyrone. Photo © Jacob J. Goldberg.

Josie is raucous and boisterous, playing the rough and tumble housekeeper for her gruff father Phil. “A Moon For The Misbegotten” is set in 1923 on a ramshackle farmstead in Connecticut. It brings together two troubled souls, Josie and James Tyrone. In their moonlight encounter, they no longer pretend to be something they are not. Her tenderness redeems him and allows him a peace he has not felt for a long time.

Dan Daily, a Pearl Company stalwart, gives a superb performance as Phil, while Kim Martin-Cotten takes her place as one of the best of Josie’s interpreters. Andrew May, reminiscent in affect and tone of Tom Hanks, has a fine sense of the torment James experiences. As the butt of Josie and Phil’s joshing, T. Stedman Harder (Kern McFadden) is a a bit cartoonish. Rounding out the cast, the always fine Sean McNall plays a small but piquant part as Josie’s brother Mike.

Kim Martin-Cotton as Josie Hogan and Dan Daily as Phil Hogan. Photo © Jacob J. Goldberg.

“A Moon For The Misbegotten” looks deep into the psychology of loss and longing; the three hours and fifteen minutes pass as a flash as JR Sullivan lets his cast explore the darkness and light in the play.

For a schedule of performances, please visit The Pearl Theatre.

“A Moon For The Misbegotten” is the final play of the season, and the last at the City Center venue. For their 29th season, The Pearl has found a permanent home across town on far west 42nd Street. JR Sullivan talks about the move.

Posted in dance, modern dance meets ballet

A Gala To Launch PTDC’s Spring

Photo from Company B by Tom Caravaglia

It’s always exhilirating to watch Paul Taylor’s dancers going through their paces. The Paul Taylor Dance Company, even as it enters its fifty-fifth year, has that proverbial spring in their step. Propulsive dancing, and energetic movement is a signature of the PTDC style which now has 136 pieces in its repertory.

Aureole— called “the white ballet” because of the stark costuming. Photo by Paul B Goode

This year PTDC is celebrating its debut at a new home at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theatre where it will perform through April 1st, and the 50th anniversary of “Aureole.” It was on the program along with “Mercuric Tidings” from 1982 and the New York premiere of “The Uncommitted” for their Gala on March 15th.

“Aureole” was Paul Taylor’s first great success, and a kind of blueprint for all the fun he would have in dancing and dance making. Its simple and stark costumes, all in white, (by George Tacet) belie the complexity of the piece. Set to excerpts by George Frederic Handel, “Aureole” offers the male soloist, Michael Trusnovec on this occasion, making the difficult executions seem deceptively easy and playful.

By the way, it is part of Paul Taylor’s modus of creation to make expert and complicated moves seem merely playful. In “Aureole” he laid the groundwork for elements intrisic to his work, enfolding the balletic and classical into a modern dance. “Aureole” also overflows with irrepresible joy.

Joining the dancers, Mr. Trusnovec, Amy Young, Michelle Fleet, Francisco Graciano, and Heater McGinley, for bows after the “Aureole” performance, were their counterparts from the original cast, which included Elizabeth Walton and of course Paul Taylor, who had chosen the dance as his final performance in 1974.

Mercuric Tidings. Costumes by Santo Loquasto. Photo by Tom Caravaglia

Paul Taylor’s Mercuric Tidings has the dancers leaping languidly into minuets, to music by Franz Schubert excerpted from the first and second Symphonies.

In the opening segment of the commissioned “The Uncommitted,” solo dancers are substituted, each appearing from the cast of eleven, almost miraculously out of a rushing crowd. That crowd twirls in elegantly to replace each other for their solos while the curtains billow behind them–could these be the winds of change? Partnering in “The Uncommitted” doesn’t seem joyous or celebratory. Movements are sometimes almost feral, occassionally submissive, at times aggressive. At one point a pair of dancers wrestle nastily while the scene behind them devolves into a brawl.

It is a decidely beautiful work, created in honor of PTDC Manager from 1962-68 Charles C. Reinhart, who was also the Director of the American Dance Festival from 1968 to 2011.

For a schedule of the programs in PTDC’s spring season, visit www.ptdc.org. Tickets are available in person at the David H. Koch box office.

Posted in drama, love story, quest

Totally Engrossed in "Teresa’s Ecstasy"

What draws us to explore one path over another?

Begonya Plaza as Carlotta, Shawn Elliott as Andres, Linda Larkin as Becky in “Teresa’s Ecstasy.” Photo © Carol Rosegg

In “Teresa’s Ecstasy,” written by Begonya Plaza at the Cherry Lane Theatre through April 1st, Carlotta’s (Begonya Plaza) research into St Teresa of Avila turns into a spiritual quest. As is often the case with this kind of journey, she is lead to an unexpected self-discovery.

Carlotta is an author, nominally married to a Spanish artist, Andres, (Shawn Elliott). She is in Spain to explore the history of St Teresa for an article she is preparing for Becky’s (Linda Larkin) magazine, Beyond Reason.
The Saint is famous for her writings about her rapturous relationship to Jesus. “Oh right,” Andres says. “The lusty saint.”

En route to Avila, Carlotta stops in Barcelona to get “Andy” to sign the divorce papers he has steadfastly ignored.

Shawn Elliott as Andres with Begonya Plaza as Carlotta in “Teresa’s Ecstasy.” Photo © Carol Rosegg

The skeptical Andres denounces religion and religious fervor. Shawn Elliott’s assured portrayal of the dogmatic and charming Andres is an excellent foil for Begonya Plaza’s open-minded and inquisitive Carlotta. The tenderness between them is unaffected. Becky as Linda Larkin plays her is contemptuous and brash, challenging Andres’s machismo.

Linda Larkin as Becky withBegonya Plaza as Carlotta and Shawn Elliott as Andres “Teresa’s Ecstasy.” Photo © Carol Rosegg

Will Pomerantz (The Blue Flower, The Shape of Things) smooothly directs the outstanding cast in the world premiere of this truly first-rate drama. The sets by Adrian W.Jones are homey and expansive.

Begonya Plaza as Carlotta and Shawn Elliott as Andres in “Teresa’s Ecstasy.” Photo © Carol Rosegg

“Teresa’s Ecstasy” is a captivating story of love and adventure. Click here for more information on the play.

Posted in comedy, movie, musical

It’s A Bright New Clear Day

You know you’re in strange country when a strong, sane psychiatrist talks seriously about reincarnation.

David Turner as David Gamble, Jessie Mueller as Melinda Wells and Harry Connick Jr as Dr. Mark Bruckner in “On A Clear Day You Can See Forever.” Photo by Nicole Rivelli

This peculiar territory is the premise of Alan Jay Lerner’s and Burton Lane’s 1965 musical “On A Clear Day You Can See Forever,” at The St. James Theatre. (See opening night video.)

A word in retrospect, now that “On A Clear Day…” has drifted off into the sunset: Acting on “Law and Order” or performing one of his charming concerts, Harry Connick Jr. is a Sinatra for his generation. It has to be admitted that in “On A Clear Day…,” he was not at his best, which is still pretty good.

The premise of the play is made all the odder still by script updates to Lerner’s book contributed by Peter Parnell. Odder but still charming in its own loopy way.

Reset to 1974, with a bright psychedelic set by Christine Jones, “On A Clear Day…” is also enlivened by the presence, in addition to Harry Connick, Jr. as Dr. Mark Bruckner, of star discoveries, David Turner as his patient David Gamble and Jessie Mueller as Melinda Wells, David Gamble’s most recent past life.

David stumbles into Dr. Bruckner’s care after being inadvertently hypnotized, a trick the doctor performs during the class David goes to with his roommate Muriel (Sarah Stiles). It turns out that David is extremely susceptible to hypnosis.

David’s sessions with Dr. Bruckner lead to the revelation that David was once Melinda Wells, an attractive and lively band singer from the ’40s. When Dr. Bruckner meets her, he is smitten.

David Turner as David Gamble with Drew Gehling as Warren Smith, in a photo by Paul Kolnik

In the original version, Dr. Bruckner’s patient was a woman. The original plot had none of the unwonted sexual-identity complications introduced in the current production.

Unwonted because Dr. Bruckner is straight. He is a man who, after three years, is still grieving the death of his wife. The complications, in which David thinks Dr. Bruckner is in love with him, and that he is in love with Dr. Bruckner, make the story line seem even more eccentric.

Kerry O’Malley as Dr. Sharone Stein, Dr. Bruckner’s colleague and friend, in a photo by Paul Kolnik

David Turner is an exceptionally spirited performer. Drew Gehling who plays his lover, Warren Smith, is excellent. Jessie Mueller has plenty of talent. Lori Wilner’s Mrs. Hatch, a secretary in the Kravis Institute where Dr. Bruckner works, delivers some very entertaining psycho-patter.
In fact, everyone in the cast of “A Clear Day…” does a terrific job in convincing us that all is well and normal. And the songs are truly lovely.

So, in short, all is forgiven, even though the day may be clear but the plot a bit foggy.

For more information about “On A Clear Day You Can See Forever” visit http://onacleardaybroadway.com/
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A short history of “On A Clear Day…” can be found at Wikipedia:
The 1970 film adaptation, directed by Vincente Minelli, of the original Broadway hit (it received three Tony nods) starred Barbara Steisand, Yves Montand and Jack Nicholson. _______________________________________________________________________ Now that “On A Clear Day…” has drifted off into the sunset: Acting on “Law and Order” or performing one of his charming concerts, Harry Connick Jr. is a Sinatra for his generation. It has to be admitted that in “On A Clear Day…,” he was not at his best, which is still pretty good.

Posted in macabre, magic, scary stories

It’s Not Halloween But We Invite You To A Haunted House

Magic follows many traditions and The Spook Show is one that dates back to the last century.

“The House of Ghostly Haunts,” at Canal Park Playhouse on Tuesdays from March 27th to April 17th, is Cardone the Magician’s macabre creation of the phantasmagorical and strange.

The show begins with trailers from classic horror films fromm the 1950s and ends with ten minutes of complete darkness.

Be prepared to be thrilled, entranced, and scared.

For more information on the program, visit www.canalparkplayhouse.com

The Stage of the Canal Park Playhouse.

Posted in based on a true story or event, Bloomsbury, drama, historical drama, painting

A Visit To Bloomsbury and Beyond

A flair for the dramatic is a looked-for quality in theater. It is nearly an essential element for the artistic temperament.

Hollis McCarthy as Vanessa Bell and Christian Pedersen as George Mallory. Photo © Eric Johanson

In “Eternal Equinox,” currently at 59E59 Theaters in a production brought over from the Grove Theater Center in California, through March 31st,the dramatic dwindles into the melodramatic.

Michael Gabriel Goodfriend as Duncan Grant and Hollis McCarthy as Vanessa Bell. Photo © Eric Johanson

The premise behind “Eternal Equinox” allows playwright Joyce Hokin Sachs to imagine a weekend encounter between George Mallory (Christian Pedersen),the Everest mountaineer, Duncan Grant (Michael Gabriel Goodfriend), the painter, set and costume designer, and Vanessa Bell (Hollis McCarthy), an artist in her own right, who was married to Clive Bell and sister to Virginia Woolf. Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell were both prominent members of the Bloomsbury Set, an influential group of writers, artists, philosophers who all worked or lived near Bloomsbury, London. (See Wikipedia for more.)

Michael Gabriel Goodfriend as Duncan Grant and Christian Pedersen as George Mallory. Photo © Eric Johanson

While professing that “there are all kinds of love,” as George tells Vanessa, Joyce Hokin Sachs paints an almost cloyingly romantic view of the decidely unconventional relationship between her and Duncan, her one-time lover. Although he fathered a child, Anjelica, with Vanessa and lived with her for most of their lives, Duncan Grant was thoroughly homosexual in his tastes and appetites. “Eternal Equinox” shows them to be cloyingly affectionate, with Vanessa possessive, jealous, and competitive in love, in seeming contradiction to the openness of their Bohemian lifestyle.

George Mallory and Duncan Grant had been lovers at one time. Mallory and Vanessa Bell shared a romantic encounter as well. Their friendship makes an interesting backdrop to the story in “Eternal Equinox.” Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of the cast, the story quickly grows tiresome.

Michael Gabriel Goodfriend as Duncan Grant and Hollis McCarthy as Vanessa Bell and Christian Pedersen as George Mallory. Photo © Eric Johanson

For a schedule of performances of “Eternal Equinox” please visit www.59e59.org.